Tag Archives: Gail Z Martin

One Step at a Time…

One Step at a Time… A blog post in support of #HoldOnToTheLight SF/F Authors and Fans for Mental Wellness


When Gail Z Martin, the Pocket Rocket, approached me to take part in this campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues I wanted to be involved. At the same time I felt the subject was very raw and I wasn’t sure that I could put my thoughts into coherent blog post. (There is a list of useful sites at the end of this post).

Here goes…


I know so many people who have battled mental health issues, from depression through anxiety and bi-polar to schizophrenia. I don’t know whether we just talk about it more nowadays, or if there are more mental health issues due to the epi-genetic consequence of last century’s conflicts but I do know these issues affect us all one way or another.

Mental Health Issues are a bit like back pain, you can’t see anything obvious but it really hurts. And when it hits you or someone you love, you wonder where did this come from and what can I do about it.

There is some interesting recent research on the topic. Firstly genetics and epi-genetics. It used to be thought that genes were a code which was expressed in the way we developed and that was it. We now know differently.

In an article by Annie Murphy Paul in the Discover Magazine, she explains that children whose mothers had been in the third trimester of their pregnancy when their fathers were killed in the World Trade Centre were more likely to have low levels of cortisol which can be associated with anxiety. This same phenomenon has been noted in the children and grandchildren of holocaust survivors.

Paul interviewed Psychiatrist Rachel Yehuda who said: ‘I have a long-running interest in the transgenerational transmission of PTSD risk, or the handing down of a susceptibility to PTSD from parent to child.”

According to Paul: ‘Yehuda encountered a vivid example of this phenomenon in 1993, when she opened the first clinic in the world devoted to the psychological treatment of Holocaust victims. She expected a flood of inquiries from people who had experienced Nazi persecution firsthand. But she soon got a surprise: for each call her clinic received from a Holocaust survivor, it was getting five calls from their grown children. “Many of these members of the second generation had symptoms of PTSD,” Yehuda says. They reported the same nightmares, the same panics, the same hair-trigger vigilance their parents had. Yehuda’s research confirmed that the offspring of parents with PTSD were more likely to develop PTSD themselves, even though they were no more likely to encounter traumatic events than other people.’

While there is nothing we can do about our genes or what affected us or our parents before we were born, we can change how our genes are expressed in our everyday lives. Have you ever wondered why one identical twin will develop a disease or mental health issue yet the other one doesn’t? It is due to lifestyle factors causing genes to express differently.

In an MIT Tech Review article by Emily Singer on Gene expression in identical twins, she says: ‘In the recent study, scientists at the University of Michigan studied 11 pairs of twins in which one member of the pair had rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease that destroys the tissue lining the joints. Experts say that genetics accounts for about 60 percent of the occurrences of the disease, while other factors, such as infections or exposure to toxins, are responsible for the remaining 40 percent. And both members of an identical twin pair don’t usually have the disease; if one twin has it, the other will have it about 15 percent of the time.’

It is such a cliché but we need to be kind to ourselves. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend, with nonjudgmental compassion.



If we take care of ourselves based on the best current research, we are giving ourselves the best chance for a fulfilled life. After all, we owe this to ourselves and to the people we love.

There is also some interesting research on mental health issues and our gut biomes. It turns out ‘gut feelings’ are a real thing.

In an article in the Molecular Psychiatry Magazine titled: ‘Genomics of schizophrenia: time to consider the gut microbiome?’ They say: ‘Within our bodies resides a dynamic population of microbes forming a symbiotic super-organism with whom we have co-evolved.15 Recent investigations indicate that these microbes majorly impact on cognitive function and fundamental behavior patterns, such as social interaction and stress management.’

We now know that our mental state can be affected by the kind of organisms in our gut. This means we could be at the beginning of a new way of treating these challenging issues as more research is done into our gut biomes.

According to Charles Schmidt in the Scientific American:  ‘Microbes may have their own evolutionary reasons for communicating with the brain. They need us to be social, says John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, so that they can spread through the human population. Cryan’s research shows that when bred in sterile conditions, germ-free mice lacking in intestinal microbes also lack an ability to recognize other mice with whom they interact. In other studies, disruptions of the microbiome induced mice behavior that mimics human anxiety, depression and even autism. In some cases, scientists restored more normal behavior by treating their test subjects with certain strains of benign bacteria.’

All of this sounds hopeful but these treatments are still in the future. Having lived through some very fraught times I know there are no easy answers and sometimes we just have to put one foot in front of the other and hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

So be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And share the good times. As a wise person once said:



When I am feeling overwhelmed by what life has thrown at me I take a mental holiday. I go online and look up beautiful artwork, beautiful homes, ways to repurpose furniture and yes, cute kittens and puppies. (After all, our perception of the world is based on how we perceive it and sometimes we need to reset it with the positive).

Makes me smile every time

Makes me smile every time

So… Hold onto the Light and keep putting one foot in front of the other, One Step at a Time.


About the campaign:

#HoldOntoTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Home for the Warriors (PTSD)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Canadian Mental Health Association



BeyondBlue (Australia),

To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline


To find out more about #HoldOntoTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to www.Facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight.




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Filed under Mental Health Issues

Winner Gail Z Martin’s Give-away!

Gail says:

What absolutely fantastic replies! Thanks to everyone for reading and for all the suggestions! Goes to prove that characters do become real to us, and live on in our imaginations long after we’re done reading the book.

One winner is too difficult…so I’ll pick two–Sean and Cecilia. I’ve got an autographed copy of The Sworn for you Just please email me at

gail (at) chroniclesofthenecromancer (dot) com

with your addresses and I’ll get those out to you!


Filed under Book Giveaway, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff

Meet Gail Z Martin …

As the next of my series featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) I’ve invited the talented Gail Z Martin to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: When someone has a middle name starting with Z I have to ask. What does it stand for? (Blame my obsession with words). Is it Zillah? Oh no, I just found your full name on wikipedia. It’s Zehner. OK, where does Zehner come from? Is it Dutch and an old family name?

Zehner is actually my maiden name.  It’s German.  I found that there are a million Gail Martins, so the Z makes it a little more identifiable.

Q: I see you are an SF fan from way back. I discovered fandom when I was 18. (Yay, people who don’t think I’m crazy). When did you discover Fandom and was it a great relief?

I discovered SF/Fantasywhen I was about 12, and got involved with fandom when I was about 17. Yes, it was a great relief.  I enjoyed getting together with other people who liked the same kinds of movies and books, and it was so great to be able to talk about the things I liked without being “weird.”

Q:  I see you are an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina. (I’m an Associate Lecturer in Narrative, Storyboards and Animatics). What is an Adjunct Professor?

Actually, the Adjunct Professor gig went away with budget cuts in 2008, but I guess the Internet hasn’t caught up!  It’s probably very similar to your “associate lecturer” role in that as an adjunct, I wasn’t tenured faculty.  I was tapped for my expertise in a particular subject, but I only taught a couple of classes and didn’t have any advisory responsibilities.

Q: With a background in marketing (25 years in fact) you run Dreamspinner Communications. You’ve written two books on the topic 30 Days to Social Media Success and Launching your Book Without Losing your Mind. I guess with your passion for fantasy, reaching out to readers was the next natural step. Do you have any tips for writers who are just starting out?

Being present on the Internet and on social media is really crucial for connecting with readers.  It’s a great way for new writers to spread the word about their books and to begin to build a loyal readership.

Q: In amongst all the other things you do, you’ve had a book out every year (2 in 2009 and none in 2010 so it averages to a book a year) since 2007. You must have a strong work ethic. How do you juggle all your other commitments and your writing?

Actually, the second book in 2009 came out on Dec. 31, so it might as well have been 2010!  I’ll have three new books out this year—one fantasy and two non-fiction.  I just love writing, so it doesn’t feel like work.  I own my own business, so making time for the writing is a lot easier than when I worked in corporate.  And I make a lot of “to-do” lists!

Q: Your Chronicles of the Necromancer had some gorgeous covers. How much input do you get with our covers?

I’ve been very fortunate to have had some amazing cover artists.  A good cover really goes a long way toward selling a book!  From The Blood King onward, I had the opportunity to supply a paragraph or two of description for the character on the cover.  I love all my covers, but I think Dark Haven is especially spot on!

Q: In Chronicles of Necromancer your main character has the power over the dead (not surprising since he’s necromancer). You don’t often see the exploration of ghosts and vampires in the traditional fantasy books. Was this something that you’d been wanting to write for a long time and it just bubbled up out of you?

I love ghosts and vampires, so if I was going to write a series, those had to be in there somewhere!  Historically, ghosts and vampires were very much a part of medieval folklore, so to me it doesn’t seem strange.  And I just wasn’t in to writing about elves and dwarves!

Q: You set four books in the Necromancer Chronicles, The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven and The Dark Lady’s Chosen. By Book four Tris has become king. Does The Fallen Kings Cycle pick up right after the end of book four with The Sworn The Sworn and then The Dread which is due out next year?

Yes.  There’s about six months of elapsed time in the book universe between the end of Dark Lady’s Chosen and the beginning of The Sworn.  Then The Dread picks up immediately after the end of The Sworn.  All six books cover just a little less than three years in the characters’ lives.

Q: You interviewed me for a podcast. (See here). When did you first start doing podcasts and what attracted you to this form of communication?

I’ve been doing podcasts now for almost four years.  I stumbled upon other people doing podcasts through the conventions I attended and thought it would be a lot of fun, plus a great way to introduce my readers to the interesting people I meet.  I really do have a wonderful time doing the interviews, and it’s been a terrific way to continue the conversation with many of the fabulous folks I’ve met at conventions.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

I see less of a difference in fantasy than with other genres.  In general (and it is a very broad generalization with no doubt many exceptions), male writers often focus more on the action, weapons and military tactics and give short shrift to the relationships and  character growth.  I’m as interested in what’s going on inside of the characters and to their interactions with the people around them as I am in the action.  That’s what I like to read, so that’s what I write.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

It’s usually the story synopsis on the back of a book that makes me pick it up, especially if it’s from a writer I’m not familiar with.  For male writers, I probably gravitate toward books by those writers who are the exceptions to the generalization I stated and who do include character growth and invest some time exploring their friendships, romances and other interpersonal relationships.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

While there are a lot of time periods I think might be fun to visit as a tourist, I’m too fond of air conditioning and modern sanitation to want to live in any other time except our own!

Give-away Question: If you could go out to dinner with two fictional characters, who would they be?

Follow Gail on Twitter: @GailZMartin

See Gail’s Blog.

Follow Gail on Myspace.

Follow Gail on Facebook at The Winter Kingdoms

Follow Gail on GoodReads and Shelfari.


Filed under Book Giveaway, Covers, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Inspiring Art, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book

A podcast interview

A little while ago Gail Z Martin, author of the Necromancer series, interviewed me for a podcast. It’s available here.

(With thanks to Eleni for fixing the link!).

I can’t listen to it because I can’t bear to listen to myself. LoL


Filed under Dialogue, Fun Stuff, The World in all its Absurdity

The Writing Fraternity

The wonderful thing about being a writer (apart from doing something you love) is meeting fellow writers.  Sometimes you read their books before you get to meet them. I met George RR Martin at the Glasgow World Con and suffered one of those embarrassing ‘fan girl’ moments where I gushed madly about how I loved his books.  And other times you meet them, then read their books. This creates a strange dissonance because you can hear  their ‘voice’ in your head as you read. This happened with Maxine McArthur for me. I met her at Aussie Con 3.

Today I want to thank three writers. When Solaris emailed me asking if there was someone who could do a testimonial on book one of King Rolen’s Kin, I madly emailed a couple of writing colleagues. Trudi Canavan (knitter, manga fan  and writer) was able to squeeze mybook in her crazy schedule.

Jennifer Fallon was scrambling to pack all her belongings and move from Australia to New Zealand, but she was such a trooper, she agreed to read the book and give me a quote.

I ‘d never met Gail Z Martin but I had read her books. When Solaris bought my trilogy I ordered all their fantasy books and read them to familiarise myself with the publisher. (I’m such a  girly swot!). So, when Solaris said they were asking Gail to read my book I was thrilled.

So there you have it, 3 great writers,supporting a fellow writer!


Filed under Fun Stuff, Nourish the Writer, The Writing Fraternity